Old/Newish Albums: Bob Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks”

bobdylanMan is this a tough one. Blood On The Tracks is generally considered a masterpiece of Bob Dylan. It wasn’t a huge hit upon initial release but history has been very kind to the record, and it’s often referenced as a cornerstone of the confessional singer-songwriter art.

Which is interesting, because while Dylan’s son, Jakob Dylan, has stated multiple times that this album is about the dissolution of his parents’ relationship, Bob Dylan himself has unequivocally stated that this isn’t a confessional record and was not inspired by the end of his marriage with Sara Dylan.

Whoever you choose to believe, the fact remains that Blood On The Tracks is a sprawling collection of heartbreaking emotions put on record. There are angry songs, sad songs, nostalgic songs, epic tales. Dylan runs the gamut of the rollercoaster one goes through when suffering through the breakdown of a relationship.

And while I can appreciate that to some extent, it’s difficult for me to relate and so this record doesn’t carry the same punch for me. With art, there’s the space where you can appreciate it and the space where you can relate to it. I’d argue the fullest experience comes with both, but Blood On The Tracks only hits me with the former rather than the latter. I just don’t see myself coming back to this album a lot.

And that’s a lot to do with Dylan’s voice. The guy was a voice of a cultural movement in the ’50s and ’60s, but listening with my 2015 ears, his voice just isn’t something I want to spend a lot of time with. There are points on this record where he reaches for a note and you’re not sure if he completely knows what he’s reaching for.

Musically, this is a decently typical Dylan record. It’s pretty stripped down, lots of acoustic instruments and pretty understated backing instrumentation. My favorite example of this on the record is “You’re A Big Girl Now.” It’s a beautiful acoustic number with a chorus of classical guitars. Weirdly, this is the one song where I really like Dylan’s melody and think his voice sounds great. It’s a very relaxed song, and overall, with the exception of “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts” and “Tangled Up In Blue,” it’s a pretty slow-paced record. Dylan isn’t rushed in telling you his woes.

I wish I liked this album more. Or least that I understood how it became regarded as such a huge album in Dylan’s body of work, much less a landmark album in the singer-songerwriter genre. I wouldn’t be quick to recommend this to someone who wasn’t already a Dylan fan. But then, if you’re already a Dylan fan, you’ve probably already heard this album.

Top 3 Tunes:

  1. You’re A Big Girl Now
  2. Buckets Of Rain
  3. If You See Her, Say Hello
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